The best defense in the MAAC in terms of efficiency visits the best offense in the conference when the Manhattan Jaspers makes the trip to Iona on ESPNU on Friday.
It is almost a microcosm of the Super Bowl when the number one defense in the MAAC takes on the number one offense Friday as the defensive minded Manhattan Jaspers (14-5, 8-2 away) pay a visit to the high octane Iona Gaels (11-8, 7-2 home) at the Hynes Athletics Center in New Rochelle, NY at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
The point spread at Bet365 has Manhattan as a small road underdog for this contest with the current line at +2½ with odds of -110.
Manhattan may be third in the MAAC conference standings at 7-3 following an upset loss at home to Quinnipiac on Sunday, but the Jaspers are the highest ranked MAAC team on the Pomeroy Ratings and the only one ranked in the Top 100 at 86th overall. The Jaspers are winning with defense, ranking 41st in the country in effective field goal percentage allowed and 13th in turnover percentage.
Iona is actually one game ahead of Manhattan in the conference at 8-2 and the Gaels are all about outscoring opposing teams as they are ranked 14th in the country in offensive efficiency, fourth in effective field goal percentage and sixth in three-point shooting.
These teams met three times last season, twice in the regular season and then again in the championship game of the MAAC Tournament. Iona won two of the three games straight up including the MAAC Championship, allowing the Gaels to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but it was Manhattan that went a perfect 3-0 ATS in those meetings.
Aside from Manhattan’s national rankings on defense mentioned earlier, the Jaspers also lead the MAAC in defensive efficiency during conference play, thanks to leading in just about every defensive category such as effective field goal percentage allowed, defensive turnover percentage, two-point defense, blocks and steals. Just about the only category where the Manhattan defense does not lead the MAAC is three-point defense, where it ranks second!
That great defense should neutralize the great Iona offense, and if that happens, the Manhattan offense would then become the biggest key to a Jaspers’ victory. While that unit is not overwhelming, is it above average ranking104th nationally and fourth during conference play in offensive efficiency, and that should be good enough to gain the road win given the deficiencies of the Iona defense.
Now, Iona is averaging a potent 83.1 points per game overall and the Gaels scored 95 points vs. Quinnipiac the last time they played in New Rochelle. And looking at conference play, Iona is the Denver Broncos to Manhattan’s Seattle Seahawks, as the Gaels lead the conference in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, offensive turnover percentage, two-point offense and three-point shooting!
So what will happen if the Gaels do not put up their customary gaudy numbers vs. the best defense they will see in conference play all season? Well, they would be in big trouble as Iona is ranked only 274th in the country in defensive efficiency and 248th in effective field goal percentage allowed, as well as eighth in defensive efficiency inside the 11-team conference.
We look for the Manhattan defense to make enough stops here to come away with the mild road upset on ESPNU on Friday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Manhattan +2½ (-110)